Australians voice support for legalizing same-sex marriage in nationwide postal survey

(Reuters/Jason Reed)People attend a rally for same-sex marriage in Sydney, Australia, September 10, 2017.

The results of Australia's nationwide survey on same-sex marriage were unveiled on Wednesday showing majority support for legalizing such marital unions before the end of the year.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that 61.6 percent of the respondents voted in favor of same-sex marriage, while 38.4 percent were opposed.

While the poll is non-binding, the government has promised to put forward a bill to legalize same-sex marriage to be considered in the Parliament in the final two-week session that is due to end on Dec. 7.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage, said that lawmakers should heed the "overwhelming" result and commit to introducing the measure by next month.

"They voted 'yes' for fairness, they voted 'yes' for commitment, they voted 'yes' for love," the prime minister said, according to The Associated Press (AP).

"Now it is up to us here in the Parliament of Australia to get on with it, to get on with the job the Australian people have tasked us to do and get this done this year before Christmas — that must be our commitment," he added.

Some lawmakers have vowed to oppose gay marriage regardless of the results of the poll, but the survey has revealed that a majority of voters in 133 of the 150 districts in the House of Representatives wanted reform.

AP noted that almost 80 percent of more than Australia's 16 million registered voters participated in the voluntary survey, which was opposed by gay marriage advocates as they deemed it to be an unnecessary obstacle. Same-sex marriage opponents, on the other hand, derided the poll as being about a boutique issue of little public interest.

Last week, the U.N. Human Rights Committee criticized Australia for putting gays and lesbians "through an unnecessary and divisive public opinion poll" and urged the government to legislate for same-sex marriage regardless of the survey's outcome.

A draft gay marriage bill that was proposed by Senator James Paterson and released on Monday has drawn concerns from some critics who argue that it would diminish current protections for gays against discrimination on the grounds of sexuality.

Senator Dean Smith has introduced a separate legislation that ruled out any compromise that would remove existing protections for gays and lesbians against discrimination.

"If there are amendments, let's see them, but let's be clear about this: Australians did not participate in a survey to have one discrimination plank removed, to have other planks of discrimination piled upon them," the senator told reporters.

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